Motormouth: Do the penny test to gauge tire wear

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Q: Would you please repeat the information about doing the penny test on your tires to determine if they have enough tread depth? My wife and I take walks and sometimes I look at the tires of parked cars and I am saddened by the number that have minimal, if any, tread on them.

I know people are struggling financially but driving on unsafe tires is not the place to cut corners.

— B.K., Emmaus, Pa.

A: The space between the edge of a penny and the top of President Lincoln’s head is 2/32 of an inch. (Yeah, I know that is 1/8 of an inch, but tire treads are measured in 32nds.) If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 of an inch and it’s time to replace your tires.

That does not mean that the tire is totally safe. Lately, the advice is to use a quarter. If the tread touches President Washington’s head, you have at least 4/32 of an inch of tread remaining, Goodyear says.

Q: It is common in states that allow it (Pennsylvania does) for husband and wife to put both names on the title as H/W. This creates a unique type of ownership, tenancy by the entirety. This means essentially that the marriage owns the vehicle, so each spouse holds a full ownership that is divisible only upon divorce or the death of one of the spouses. This has the advantage of not only leaving full ownership in the surviving spouse but no tax consequences at all.

Of course, you rightly point out that any type of joint ownership without an ownership agreement makes it unclear who can use the vehicle, maintain the vehicle make payments, etc.

— R.K., Allentown, Pa.

A: Full disclosure: I am not a lawyer. My original response to a reader with no heirs or spouse was that a joint ownership title with right of survivorship may be the simplest was to transfer the car’s title. I have also had advice that titling in the name of one person may protect the other spouse should there be a lawsuit following an accident. Pay a professional for help you can trust.

I will stick to mechanical car questions for which I am qualified. These answers are priceless, er, free.

Q: Both of my Toyotas will take an extra gallon or more after the gas pump first cuts off. To fill my 2016 Toyota Sienna requires me to wait about five seconds after gas pumps cuts off and then just open the pump handle a little bit and that will add about .15 gallons each time. I have never had any problem with filling them up to the top but have heard that is not a good idea.

What is the negative?

— D.N., Mankato, Minn.

A: It is not a good idea. Pumping more gas after the nozzle has clicked off runs the risk of allowing liquid fuel to get into the evaporative emissions control charcoal canister. It is very expensive to replace.

Q: My wipers seem to wear out quickly when using Rain-X. Even with new wipers they still leave the windshield streaky. How do I remove the Rain-X?

— B.S., Circle Pines, Minn.

A: I have heard that a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar will work. Once you have the glass squeaky clean, polish it with a dry terry cloth towel or, better yet, a microfiber towel.



Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber’s work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest.

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